The Unexpected Zen of David Beckham

Headphones photo by Corey Blaz / CC0

I applied to Makers Academy, got a beautiful little email inviting me to interview and sank my teeth into codeacademy’s Ruby track and Chris Pine’s book.

Went for the interview and then spent an anxious 24 hours waiting to hear. Success!

Started stretching my coding muscles on codewars. Met some of my cohort at East London coffee shops, and chatted with others on slack. Everyone I talked to about the course was excited, including me. If I had to transcribe my inner monologue at this point, I’d say it sounded something like this:

OMG THIS ROCKS I CANNOT WAIT TO START IT’S GONNA BE AWESOME YEAH!!!!

A few weeks passed, and then the Precourse finally arrived. The Precourse is an online learning track to make sure you’re ready for the full 12-week intensive course. I’d been looking forward to it — I couldn’t wait to have a go at the weekly challenges, to have something to direct my learning towards rather than meandering round online tutorials.

So I was a little shocked to discover my inner monologue had abruptly changed its tune, now sounding something like the following:

you are destined to fail. wait til they find out what a fraud you are. your family and friends will forsake you. run away, hide in a cave. it’s the only safe option.

I searched through my brain, looking for the coding knowledge I’d gained over the past few weeks in a bid to reassure myself, but it all seemed to have evaporated like the morning mist.

The only thing my brain wanted to show me was a dated old joke — you’ve probably heard it, or a variant. It goes like this:

David Beckham goes into a hairdressers, and asks for a haircut. “No problem”, says the barber, “but you’ll have to take your headphones off”. “No can do”, says David. “But I can’t cut your hair if you keep them on”, says the barber. “ Sorry, mate”, says David, “but I can’t take them off, it’s a matter of life and death, you’ll have to cut round them”.
The barber goes to work, with some difficulty, and as he turns to pick up a comb, he knocks the headphones to the floor! There they lay, and from them a faint voice could be heard saying “breathe in… breathe out… breathe in… breathe out…”.

My brain was taunting me. Thanks a lot, brain.

Unless… what if I decide to flip my perspective? What if I decide that, instead of this being a cheap crack about [insert celebrity here]’s low IQ, it’s actually a kind of zen parable?

Here’s how that story goes: David Beckham isn’t stupid, he’s actually a zen master — wise, and experienced in meditation. Beckham knows that it’s a terrible idea to indulge in made-up scenarios of doom.

So he’s made a tape for himself that he plays on loop, reminding himself to stay in the present, and to focus his mind on the here and now. What could be more important than that?

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I opened up the pre-course email.